Representatives in the services sector across the Caribbean converged in Antigua from October 17 to October 19 for a CARICOM Regional Symposium on Services. The purpose of the forum was to develop strategies and action plans to boost investment, output, employment and trade in the sector.
The services sector, which covers more than 70% of the region’s export earnings, offers wide and varied opportunities for development in retail, distribution, consultancy, finance, tourism, communication, transport, and more.
Speaking at the symposium, Dean of the CARICOM Youth Ambassadors Corps, Charde Desir, said it is paradoxical to believe that the Caribbean’s human resource is its most vital asset while at the same time underutilizing the region’s youth.
Desir, who also serves as the Saint Lucian Male CARICOM Youth Ambassador, told the CARICOM/CARIFORUM stakeholders that with 60% of the region’s population being under 30, more than half of the new job seekers are young people.
“If our youth are the key to a sustainable future, then we need to engage them,” Desir said. “Their value must not be overlooked. Yet we inadvertently do so when vacancies are advertised and they require a minimum of three years’ experience. Or after a few weeks of a vacancy being posted, a notice is found in the paper stating that since no suitable candidate had been found, we are tendering for applicants outside of the country.”
Desir implored the stakeholders, whom he referred to as having the power to provide opportunities, to embrace the fresh perspectives, willingness and energy of young people to unlock their potential which will redound to their benefit and the further development of the region. He believes that traditional professions should no longer be the focus or the aspiration.
“A precise description of the job market is needed, which provides an accurate snapshot of the areas that are over-saturated as well as the areas that could benefit from additional stimulation,” Desir explained. “The services sector should work alongside our research institutions to provide this information so that we can encourage persons to seek careers that suit the job market, rather than have a job market that doesn’t support the people.”
Through this approach, Desir said a sustainable and prosperous region will become reality – by fostering the capacity of the youth and accommodating them in various regional frameworks, the need to seek employment outside of the region will be reduced.